Where Do I Start? Advice for First Year Special Education Teachers

One of my former students called me today in a panic “what do I do I keep getting teachers telling me to take this student because they don't know what to do with them” My former student asked me do I take them? What about my students with IEPs? I can't take all students– I don't want the teachers to think I am not a good team player…”

Compliance and Access to the regular curriculum should be at the forefront!

I have seen this scenario with growing difficulties over the years and into multiple years in many schools. Regular education teachers say they don't have another option to help students in need. Special education teachers have to say that the child doesn't meet eligibility criteria or they can't take them because they already have a full caseload.

What about compliance for special education students?
What about regular education teachers not able to help students.

The answer is collaborative research-based practices as part of a Response to Intervention model. What is the difference? All teachers at the particular grade level plan for all students using screening and progress monitoring data and ensuring access to regular education curriculum.
Prevention & Intervention
Research-based instruction and intervention
Differentiated and collaborative problem-solving and planning
Student growth
Options for regular education teachers
More instructional time for special education teacher
Appropriate referrals to special education


How can you start? If you are thinking about reading here is a good way to start:
Begin by reading this article by Reading Rockets
This article will help you guarantee that your Tier 1 or Core reading instruction is based on research-based instructional practices, a main component of RTI.

Then visit the DIBELS website to download for free a reading universal screening assessments in reading k-6th grade in English, Spanish, and Math.
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Then, for strategic Tier 2 interventions and intensive Tier 3 interventions visit the National Center for Response to Intervention to evaluate and decide which packaged programs and approaches would best fit your needs. Another option with online free training can be found at The IRIS Center from Vanderbilt University


RTI, ELLs, Special Ed

Claudia Rinaldi View All →

Professor Claudia Rinaldi is the Chair of the Education Program at Lasell University. Her areas of research are the implementation of the Multi-Tier System of Supports (MTSS) framework in urban settings with English learners, teacher education in bilingual special education, and diversifying the teacher pipeline. Claudia has authored peer-reviewed publications and a book for educators called Practical Ways to Engage All Struggling Readers. She lead and developed a graduate certificate program in Teaching Bilingual Students with Disabilities for general, ESL and special education teachers geared towards applying research-informed practices to the questions and processes of identifying whether it is a language difference or a learning disability. Claudia developed a college mentoring program called Pathways to Teacher Diversity for districts and teacher education programs to partner in identifying and supporting underrepresented high school students interested in teaching careers to successfully access and persist in college. She serves in various boards including the National Center for Learning Disabilities and serves as an expert for Understood.org and the National Center for Intensive Interventions.

Professor Claudia Rinaldi believes that it is critical to prepare teacher leaders who may serve as advocates and allies and who will respond to the belief that all students can learn and succeed beyond barriers like culture, language, disability poverty, and marginalization in our country and globally.

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